Great moments define NFL's greatest game

From Swann to Elway, superlative plays leave many lasting memories


January 28, 2001|By Lou Cortina

There have been hundreds of big plays during 34 years of Super Bowl history, but some are more super than others because of their impact on the game.

As the Ravens and New York Giants look to add to NFL lore tonight, here's a look at some of the best plays in Super Bowl history:

Best run

Marcus Allen's 74-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XVIII is a popular choice, but the Raiders were already winning 28-9 when Allen made the Redskins look silly with his spectacular cutback run.

For sheer impact, John Riggins' 43-yard run for Washington against Miami in Super Bowl XVII is hard to beat.

Trailing 17-13 and facing fourth-and-one at the Dolphins' 43 early in the fourth quarter, the Redskins decided to go for a first down. Riggins took a handoff and headed off left tackle, where he was met by Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal.

But Riggins brushed off McNeal like a piece of lint and rumbled down the sideline into the end zone and into Super Bowl history. The touchdown gave the Redskins a 20-17 lead they wouldn't relinquish en route to their first Super Bowl victory.

"We knew if we didn't make it then [on third down], it would be a risky field goal," said then-Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. "We decided to take our best play and go at them. We didn't want to lose a Super Bowl by not being tough enough."

Best catch

Make that "best catches." How could you pick just one of the three great grabs made by Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X?

His first, a 32-yarder in the first quarter, set up Pittsburgh's first touchdown in its 21-17 win over Dallas. Running along the right sideline, Swann leaped inside of cornerback Mark Washington and snared Terry Bradshaw's pass, then incredibly twisted his body in midair to avoid landing out of bounds.

In the second quarter, Swann again leaped high for a pass, juggled the ball while falling to the turf, then managed to hold onto it while tripping over a defender.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, Swann hauled in a 64-yard bomb from Bradshaw to score what proved to be the game's decisive touchdown.

What made this display all the more impressive is that Swann had suffered a concussion in the AFC championship game and was listed as doubtful for the Super Bowl.

"Sure, I thought about the possibility of being reinjured," Swann said. "But it's like being thrown from a horse. You have to get up and ride again immediately or you may be scared the rest of your life."

Best throw

San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana won four championships, but the game in which he rose to legendary status was Super Bowl XXIII against Cincinnati.

Trailing 16-13 with 3:10 left, Montana led the 49ers on a 92-yard scoring drive, capped by his perfectly thrown, 10-yard touchdown strike to receiver John Taylor with 34 seconds left.

What made the pass even greater were the circumstances Montana faced as he lined up over the center. The primary receiver was supposed to be halfback Roger Craig on a curl pattern, but Craig and fullback Tom Rathman lined up on the wrong sides.

"The fact that I was on the wrong side didn't even affect Joe," Craig said. "He is so smooth, it's incredible. ... I was double-covered, so he went to the next guy."

That would be Taylor, lined up on the left. He faked as if he were going to turn to the outside, then moved inside and ran into the end zone, catching Montana's rifled pass in stride to give the 49ers a 20-16 victory.

Best tackle

On the final play of last year's game, St. Louis' Mike Jones made the biggest defensive play in recent Super Bowl memory. Jones wrapped up the Titans' Kevin Dyson 1 yard short of the end zone as time expired, clinching a 23-16 victory over Tennessee.

Tennessee got the ball on its own 10 with 1:48 on the clock and one timeout left. Quarterback Steve McNair ran and passed the Titans into scoring position and a shot at overtime.

After Tennessee used its final timeout, McNair lined up in the shotgun and threw to Dyson on a quick slant pattern. Dyson had the end zone in sight when Jones wrestled him to the ground by the legs. Ball outstretched, Dyson's forward progress was smothered at the 1.

Jones, the Rams' left outside linebacker, recalled that Eddie George had barreled over defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina for a 2-yard touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter. Jones said he expected to cover the tight end on an inside route, but instead he saw Dyson dart to the middle.

"I said, `This time, no matter who it is, I can't let him in the end zone. We've got a chance to win the game. Get him on the ground,' " Jones said. "That's what I did."

Best hustle

Perhaps no player on a losing team in a blowout game made more of an impact than Bills receiver Don Beebe in Super Bowl XXVII.

Trailing 52-17 in the fourth quarter, Buffalo quarterback Frank Reich fumbled in Dallas territory. The ball was scooped up by Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett, who raced downfield toward the Bills' end zone.

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